Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (07/20/1999)

Teacher Empowerment Act - Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) to revise and rename title II as Teacher Quality (replaces the current title II Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development Program).

(Sec. 2) Sets forth a new title II part A Teacher Empowerment program of grants to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Directs the Secretary of Education to make such grants to States, according to certain hold-harmless provisions and allotment formulas.

Requires States to distribute such grant funds as follows: (1) 95 percent for subgrants to local educational agencies (LEAs) according to specified formulas, with 20 percent of that LEA subgrant total amount reserved for competitive subgrants and at least three percent of the competitive subgrant total amount going to eligible partnerships; and (2) five percent for authorized State activities. Sets forth requirements for coordination, public accountability, and applications, including provisions to ensure program development participation of teachers and parents.

Includes among authorized State activities: (1) reform of teacher certification, recertification, or licensure requirements; (2) support, including mentoring, during the initial teaching experience; (3) alternative routes to State certification of teachers, especially in mathematics and science, for highly qualified individuals; (4) mechanisms to assist LEAs and schools in teacher and principal recruitment and retention; (5) reform of tenure systems and use of teacher testing to remove incompetent and ineffective teachers from classrooms; (6) measurement of performance of professional development programs and strategies; (7) technical assistance to LEAs; (8) promotion of reciprocity of teacher certification or licensure between or among States, without weakening any State requirements; (9) development of cost-effective and easily accessible professional development delivery strategies, including use of technology and distance learning; and (10) assistance to LEAs and eligible partnerships in developing professional development programs to train teachers in the use of technology to improve teaching and learning.

Requires eligible partnerships to use such subgrants for: (1) professional development activities in core academic subjects to ensure that teachers have content knowledge in the subjects they teach; and (2) assistance to LEAs and their teachers, principals, and administrators for professional development activities.

Requires LEAs to use portions of such subgrants for: (1) professional development activities in mathematics and science, in an amount at least equal to that under the current Eisenhower Program (unless given a State waiver); (2) professional development activities that give teachers, principals, and administrators the knowledge and skills to provide students with the opportunity to meet challenging State or local content standards and student performance standards; and (3) recruiting, hiring, and training certified teachers, including teachers certified through State and local alternative routes, in order to reduce class size (unless given a State waiver), or for hiring special education teachers regardless of whether such action reduces class size.

Authorizes LEAs to use such subgrants for highly qualified teacher recruitment programs, including: (1) signing bonuses or other financial incentives for teaching in academic subject areas where there is a shortage; (2) recruiting and providing alternative routes to teacher certification for professionals from other fields; (3) providing increased opportunities for minorities, individuals with disabilities, and other individuals underrepresented in teaching; and (4) hiring policies that identify teachers certified through alternative routes and intensively screen for the most qualified applicants.

Authorizes LEAs to use such subgrants also for: (1) highly qualified teacher retention programs (including master teacher mentoring of newly hired teachers, or other incentives for highly qualified teachers to remain in the classroom); (2) teacher quality improvement and professional development programs (including technology training through partnerships with institutions of higher education, delivery of professional development activities through technology and distance learning, tenure reform, merit pay, testing of teachers in the subject areas they teach, instruction in how to teach children with different learning styles, particularly those with disabilities or special learning needs (including gifted and talented), instruction in classroom discipline and identifying early and appropriate interventions), and instruction in how to teach character education in a specified manner; (4) teacher opportunity payments; and (5) professional activities to improve the quality of principals.

Requires LEAs receiving subgrants to: (1) collaborate with teachers, principals, administrators, and parents in preparing subgrant applications; and (2) provide parents information regarding the professional qualifications of students' classroom teachers.

Prohibits the provision of professional development funds from LEA subgrants for a teacher and an activity if the activity is not: (1) directly related to the curriculum and content areas in which the teacher provides instruction; or (2) designed to enhance the teaching of such areas. Permits the use of such funds for instruction in methods of disciplining children. Sets forth various requirements for such professional development activities, including appropriate provision of teacher training in the use of technology to improve teaching and learning in the curriculum and academic content areas they teach.

Authorizes LEAs to use subgrants for teacher opportunity payments to certain teachers or groups of teachers for professional development activities of their own choosing. Requires certain LEAs, if they fail to meet State teaching standards, to make such teacher opportunity payments. Requires providing notice to teachers regarding the availability of such funds. Sets forth a process for selecting teachers in the event of inadequate funds.

Sets forth certain national activities under part A of title II of ESEA.

Authorizes the Secretary to award competitive grants to eligible consortia for Teacher Excellence Academies, in elementary or secondary school facilities, to carry out specified activities promoting alternative routes to State teacher certification, specified model professional development activities, or all such activities.

Authorizes continuation of the Troops-to-Teachers Program under specified conditions.

Authorizes the Secretary to make a grant or contract to continue the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education.

Directs the Secretary to make competitive grants for professional development for principals as leaders of school reform to eligible partnerships of higher education institutions, LEAS, and other entities.

Authorizes the Secretary to make a grant or contract, to an organization or institution with substantial experience in entrepreneurship education, for a National Clearinghouse for Teacher Entrepreneurship to: (1) coordinate professional development opportunities for teachers; (2) collect and disseminate curricular materials; and (3) undertake other activities to encourage teacher interest and involvement in entrepreneurship education, particularly for teachers of grades seven through 12.

Authorizes the Secretary to make competitive grants to eligible rural LEAs to: (1) recruit and retain qualified teachers; and (2) provide high-quality professional development to teachers.

Authorizes the Secretary to use specified funds for a program to recruit qualified math and science teachers for high-need school systems, following the model of the Troops-to-Teachers teacher placement program. Authorizes program grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to higher education institutions and public and private nonprofit entities. Authorizes appropriations.

Authorizes appropriations through FY 2004 for part A (Teacher Empowerment) of title II (Teacher Quality) of ESEA (with specified exceptions).

Extends through FY 2004 the authorization of appropriations for the National Writing Project under title X of ESEA.

(Sec. 3) Extends through FY 2004 the authorization of appropriations for the Reading Excellence Act (REA) program. Redesignates REA as part B of title II of ESEA.

(Sec. 4) Prohibits the Secretary from: (1) using Federal funds to plan, develop, implement, or administer any national teacher test or certification; or (2) withholding funds from any State or LEA that fails to adopt a specific method of teacher certification.

Provides that: (1) nothing in ESEA title II shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage, or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of any private, religious, or home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a private school or home school under State law; and (2) private, religious, or home schools are not barred, by the previous provision, from participation in programs or services under ESEA title II.

(Sec. 5) Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) quality teachers are integral to the development of children; and (2) it is essential that Congress work to ensure their highest quality.